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3 Travel + Leisure Editors Dream About Their Ideal Hilton Head Island Vacation

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The moment you touch down at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), the Hilton Head Island experience begins, offering first-timers and repeat visitors alike ample opportunities to make cherished memories. Travel might be complicated right now, but it’s never too soon to start planning your next adventure. Here, dream alongside three Travel + Leisure editors as they rhapsodize about their ideal Hilton Head Island retreat, by air, sea, and land.

By Air: Abundant Fresh Oxygen Thrills

After being cooped up in my compact city apartment for months on end, my appetite for wide-open spaces, outdoor adventures, and natural beauty has reached an all-time high. Few places can satisfy cravings for all three — especially year-round — like South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, a sunny destination that’s easily accessed with a flight into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV). With luxury resorts, delicious Lowcountry cuisine, and plenty to see and do, a trip here can be as action-packed as I wish.

Although it’s only 12 miles long and five miles wide, this coastal gem packs a punch, with beautiful beaches, wooded pine forests, salt marshes, and lagoons and creeks setting the scene — an ecological playground for all sorts of on- and off-land activities.

Spoiled for choice, I’ll spend my days biking the 60+ miles of leisure pathways, hiking the shaded pathways at the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, discovering wildlife at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and Audubon-Newhall Preserve, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Broad Creek, zip-lining, trying to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or sea turtle on a tour, horseback riding at Haig Point, and sunbathing and swimming at Coligny Beach—all between rounds of fresh seafood and tasty cocktails, of course.

—Alisha Prakash, Senior Digital Editor

By Sea: Waterways Unlike Anywhere Else

When I was growing up in South Carolina, my family—grandma, grandpa, my parents, and my sister—enjoyed yearly summer vacations on Hilton Head Island. We’d build sandcastles on the beach, splash in warm waves, bike along the scenic marshlands, and watch for dolphins on Broad Creek. Now that I live in New York City, I miss the South Carolina Lowcountry’s wide-open spaces and welcoming spirit deeply, but most of all, I miss getting out on the water.

During my next trip to Hilton Head Island, I plan to take full advantage of the island’s coastal location. Surrounded by unique waterways that are home to diverse wildlife like dolphins and herons, Hilton Head Island offers a wide range of water activities and tours. Maybe I’ll cruise along the Atlantic Coast in a chartered boat, kayak through the sparkling Calibogue Sound, or paddleboard on Broad Creek. Maybe I’ll do all three! There’s always something new to discover because the dramatic tides reveal distinct landscapes (and sea creatures) depending on the time of day. After spending a day out on the water, I’ll sip a cocktail on the dock overlooking the boats at South Beach Marina before digging into a plate of local seafood—Lowcountry oysters are an absolute must from September through April.

—Elizabeth Rhodes, Associate Digital Editor

By Land: Southern Dining at Its Best

After a quiet morning stroll on the beach and an active afternoon of kayaking, there's nothing better than a Hilton Head Island happy hour that turns into a long, leisurely dinner with friends old and new. The moment I pull up a chair overlooking Skull Creek at Dockside, infused cocktail in hand, my vacation has officially begun.

The beautiful thing about Hilton Head Island’s dining scene is that it can be as laid-back or as luxurious as you choose—and no matter which way you go, every meal comes with a side of warm southern hospitality.

On my next visit, I might opt for shrimp and polenta and Carolina catfish at Fish Camp, which has an amazing view of the water, or brisket and baby-back ribs at One Hot Mama’s, a popular barbecue spot. For fresh seafood and a global wine list in an oceanfront setting, nothing beats Coast at The Sea Pines Resort, my favorite place to stay on the island. If I’m lucky, I might even catch some live music. The Sage Room is the place for dinner and a “show,” with fine American dining around an open kitchen. Maybe I’ll book the chef’s table to make the occasion feel extra special. Wherever I end up dining on Hilton Head Island, I’m guaranteed to make memories around the table—and to find plenty of tasty ways to fuel up for my next adventure.

—Nina Ruggerio, Deputy Digital Editor

Visit here for more trip ideas, and start planning your flight here.